Retinal Cryotherapy

Retinal cryotherapy is a procedure used to treat diseases of the retina (retinopathy). During retinal cryotherapy, extremely cold temperatures are applied to the diseased area(s) of the eye. The procedure aims to prevent blindness and visual loss. The procedure may be performed alone or in combination with laser treatments of the eye. It can be performed on an outpatient basis. Depending on your condition, however, you may need to stay in the hospital for a short time.

Retinal cryotherapy may be done to treat the following conditions:

  • Childhood cancer of the eye.

  • Malformation of the retina due to premature birth (retinopathy of prematurity).

  • Diabetic retinopathy.

  • Retinal breaks and tears.

  • Tumors of the eye.


  • Any allergies.

  • All medicines taken, including vitamins, herbs, eyedrops, over-the-counter medicines, and creams.

  • Use of steroids.

  • Previous problems with anesthesia.

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Smoking history.

  • Any health problems.


  • Reaction to anesthesia or other medicines given during the procedure.

  • Damage to surrounding structures or tissue.

  • Infection.

  • Worsening retinopathy.


  • You may need to schedule a physical exam, eye exam, and get blood and imaging tests.

  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop or change any regular medicines. You may have to stop taking blood thinners, including aspirin.

  • You may need chemotherapy treatment if you are having this procedure to treat cancer of the eye.

  • You may need to take antibiotic medicines. If so, take the antibiotics exactly as directed.

  • Apply eyedrops to the affected eye as directed by your caregiver. The eyedrops with dilate the pupil.

  • Avoid eating or drinking 7 to 8 hours before the procedure, or as directed.

  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.

  • Arrange to have a ride home after the procedure. Have someone help you at home after the procedure as well.


  • You may be given a medicine to make you sleep (general anesthesia).

  • A fine needle applicator (cryoprobe) will deliver extremely cold argon gas or liquid nitrogen to the diseased area. A CT scan or an MRI may be used to monitor the cryoprobe.

  • The cold argon gas or liquid nitrogen destroys only the diseased cells and creates intentional scarring.

  • The procedure may be repeated. Your caregiver will let you know if you need to come back for another procedure.


  • Your eye may be red and swollen. This is normal

  • You will be given medicine to control any discomfort.

  • Your eye may be covered with bandages temporarily.

  • You will need to cover and protect the treated eye, especially if you are in a dusty environment.

  • You may use the untreated eye for other activities that require eyesight.